Time Management Skills and Strategies don’t work!

Time Management Skills Hourglass

The term “time management” is a misnomer and you should avoid time management skills and strategies.  You cannot manage time – it continues onward regardless of your attempting to somehow “manage it”!

Focus instead on Priority and Activity management.

I participate in a Productivity and Time Management Skills discussion group on LinkedIn where a question was recently posed for people to provide their favorite “time management quotes”.

The one I provided was from William Penn:

Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.
— William Penn

However, I don’t like the term “time management” and try to dissuade people from using that phrase.

You may often wish that you had more time, but the fact is that you have the same amount of time available to you every day.

In fact, you get exactly 24 hours, or 1,440 minutes, or 86,400 seconds each day regardless of what you do (or don’t do for that matter).

Consider that of your 24 daily hours, the average business worker spends (roughly) one-third of them “sleeping”, one third of them “working”, and one third of them doing “personal” things (such as eating, commuting, exercising, shopping, family, friends, interests, and personal activities).

This breaks-down (again, very roughly) into approximately three, eight-hour thirds, only one of which is allocated to “work”.

Yes – your personal results will vary.  Maybe you are more work focused and need less sleep and your break-down is a slightly more work-centric ratio of 6 sleep / 10 work / 8 personal.   Or maybe you have more personal responsibilities and your mix is a more personal-centric ratio of 6 sleep / 8 work / 10 personal.

But regardless of the exact number breakdowns or ratios, the bottom line is that each day only provides so much available time for you to accomplish what you want to achieve.  And if you are like me, your list of things to do normally far exceeds your available time.

So, what do you do if you cannot manage time?

The way you do this is you focus not on trying to “manage time” or "time management skills", but instead on performing the right activities “now”, setting the right priorities for the “future”, and learning from what you have already completed in the “past”.

The key is to focus on priorities and activities.  You must learn to prioritize and manage the activities and events in your life in relation to the time you have available.

Perhaps it was stated best by Stephen R. Covey, the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” (which is also one of my favorites in my "Must Read List").

Time management is really a misnomer. The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.
— Stephen Covey

In the next post, I will provide some additional ideas, techniques, and approaches to help you better prioritize your goals and action your work and will show how these concepts are very similar to those that are followed in effective and efficient Email processing and triage techniques.

What do you think?

Can you manage time with time management skills?

Or does time manage you?